Spain and Southern France

Old Jan 3rd, 2014, 10:13 AM
  #1  
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Spain and Southern France

We are 2 couples aged 25-30 from India planning a trip across Spain and covering Southern France. We intend to land in Nice, stay there a couple of day and drive along parts of the beautiful countryside / Mediterranean coastline. We plan to spend 3 days in this region before moving on to Bilbao in Spain. Which would be the best point in France to drop off the rental car? Also, what is the best way to get from there to Bilbao.

We only have 3 days to spare in the Provence area, so we only plan to see Nice, Marseille and Arles. Any suggestions would be most welcome as the Renfe/Sncf websites were not able to provide me with any train suggestions. We are on a tight budget, hence looking for the cheapest mode of travel. Thanks in advance!
travelzombie is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2014, 12:05 PM
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Try to drop the car off in Hendaye and take the local commuter train to San Sebastian. It will take one day of driving from Arles to Hendaye on the Atlantic coast.

Drop Marseille from your itinerary. With only three days, with one day in Nice and the other in Arles, you won't have the time to drive into a big city and orient yourself to enjoy the city itself.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2014, 01:12 PM
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A car is fine for the visit of small places with difficult access by public transport. There are tons of such gems in Provence.

But within your time frame, you will have no time for a visit of rural Provence. Consequently, you plan only to visit Nice, Marseille and Arles, all linked by motorways as will as by fast trains.

Under these circumsrances, I don't understand why you want to do this journeyx by car; the train would be more relaxing and not slower:

Nice - Marseille: 2 1/2 hrs
Marseille - Arles: 3/4 hrs
Marseille - Barcelonoa 4 1/4 hrs
Barcelona - Bilbao: 6 1/4 hrs
Marseille - Hendaye: 10 hrs
Hendaye - Bilbao: 3 1/2 hrs
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Old Jan 3rd, 2014, 01:19 PM
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Arles to Hendaye would be a very long day of driving, not something I would be inclined to do. Pau would be about as far as I would go before stopping to spend the night. There are a lot of good options in and around Pau.

Since Bilbao is your final destination, as noted, you can take the TOPO from the train station in Hendaye into San Sebastian-Donostia (about 30 minutes to the end of the line), and the take the bus from there to Bilbao (about 1hr 20 min).

There are two other options, depending on what you want to do. The first would be to drop the car off at the Biarritz airport and take the PESA bus into San Sebastian-Donostia (45 minutes). As there is only one bus (in the middle of the afternoon), you would have to be at the Biarritz airport before 15:00.

The second option would be to catch the PESA bus in Biarritz and take it to Bilbao, skipping San Sebastian-Donostia. One bus departs at 12:15, another at 18:45. The trip takes just under 3 hours. This bus originates in Bayonne, but doesn't run on Sunday.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2014, 05:46 PM
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With such a short time frame, consider landing in Marseille, train to Arles. Base there. Take the train to Avignon (20 - 30 minutes) and the bus to Les Beaux (20 - 30 minutes).

If you decide to stick with Nice, skip Marseille, stay in Arles. Visit Les Beaux.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2014, 06:27 PM
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Les Baux (note correct spelling) isn't near Nice. If visiting Les Baux, land in Marseille and stay in Arles or St-Rémy and visit Les Baux from there (along with Glanum and a host of other places). But of course you can't get to Les Baux or St-Rémy on the train.

The problem is, you don't have time for much of anything, and you're concentrating on cities, which will take lots of time to get in and out of and find parking in.

Personally, I would re-think this whole idea. And learn how to use the national train sites: they do have detailed information on every train on every date at every price. If you can't figure them out, use www.capitainetrain.com
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Old Jan 3rd, 2014, 08:59 PM
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StCirq, You said better what I meant to say, and spelled it correctly also. Thanks. I was trying to indicate that Les Baux was an interesting place close to Arles, that they could see easily - not near Nice, of course. Exactly what I was suggesting was they skip Nice, land in Marseille and make Arles their base. From Arles, we day tripped into Avignon by train and by bus to Les Baux. Both were fast, easy and cheap and could work for the op with their limited time, even without a car.
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Old Nov 9th, 2014, 10:57 PM
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Thank you all for the suggestions. Clearly, I am new to fodors, and did not know how to view the replies and also respond to all of you very kind folks! We enjoyed the trip a lot, and I will post a detailed trip report soon so that it helps clueless people like me get an idea of what to and not to do.
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Old Nov 10th, 2014, 10:43 AM
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Do not forget Cannes and Antibes.
Near Nice both are beautiful and a must see!!
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Old Nov 10th, 2014, 12:45 PM
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I'm confused about how many days you actually have for this trip in total and in each country. You seem to be all over the place - in terms of where to go and how to get there.

If you could clarify your total number of days on the ground ad what your interests are (why are you going to these places) people might be able to help you think this through.

deciding on car or train before you finalize your itinerary really isn;t possible.
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Old Nov 10th, 2014, 05:06 PM
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Francis974 & nytraveler,

Easy to miss, but the op already took the trip, so too late for advice.
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Old Nov 10th, 2014, 05:08 PM
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Actually, the op just did a trip report - started another thread.
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